NEW YORK—Actress and model Caterina Leaness and her mother, creative empowerment coach Christina Leaness, both found inspiration in Shen Yun Performing Arts at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater on April 25.
Caterina Leaness saw in the performance an example of the principles she has learned as an actress. “I could really see the urgency in that performance and what they were doing, and it was beautiful,” Ms. Leaness said of Shen Yun’s performers. “It wasn’t just about what they were feeling, but about what they wanted to do.”
The New York-based company brings 5,000 years of Chinese culture to the stage, from ancient legends to scenes of contemporary life. The ancient culture is held to be divinely inspired, explain the Masters of Ceremonies, and many scenes convey a sense of divine purpose.
“It was gorgeous,” said the actress. “I thought it was beautiful, I had honestly never seen anything like it. The dancing really spoke a story.”
Classical Chinese Dance ‘Imbued With Spirit’
Shen Yun features the world’s best classical Chinese dancers. Every movement and posture in classical Chinese dance holds meaning.
One of the elements of the dance form is bearing. Shen Yun’s website explains: “Bearing emphasizes internal spirit, breath, intent, personal aura, and deep emotional expression. In essence, the spirit leads form, so that form is imbued with spirit.”
Classical Chinese dance was “built on traditional aesthetics, it was once passed down among the people, in imperial courts, and through ancient plays,” explains the website, adding that it was constantly refined over thousands of years. The performance also features ethnic and folk dance.
“It’s kind of shocking that this rich culture is unable to be presented to the people of their own country,” said Christina Leaness.
Reviving Traditional Culture
The Chinese Communist Party brought traditional Chinese culture to the brink of extinction beginning with the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, explains Shen Yun’s website.
Ginelle Larsdotter, Christina’s mother and Caterina’s grandmother, also attended the performance. She had heard that some people in China have been able to see the performance outside of China or to see some of it through the Internet.
“They must feel really proud, especially the younger people who haven’t heard really, or experienced it,” Ms. Larsdotter said, noting that the elderly would remember the culture before the communist regime.
“They must be responding and feel really proud of their heritage,” she said.
Shen Yun is nonprofit and independent of the regime, enjoying the freedom of its New York base and drawing talent from around the world. Many of the artists involved are winners of international competitions in dance, choreography, and music.
“The music was flawless,” Caterina Leaness said. “Actually, I have a connection to Chinese music. I really love the sound, and it’s very heavenly and beautiful, nice and light.”
Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company Orchestra includes a unique blend of traditional Chinese instruments and Western classical instruments.
Mother and daughter both agreed the heavenly scenes were inspiring.
“Seeing the landscape and the architecture in the clouds,” said the actress, referring to the digital, animated backdrop, “I would love to live in a place like that!”
Her mother was impressed by the bright images in the first dance: “The heart coming, the warmth and the love, and the inspiration coming from that sun was very powerful. … It was very deeply inspiring on a lot of levels.”
She is the founder of Sunshine Empowerment, which she explained uses creative methods to help people find “who you are, the core, true you.”
“There was a tremendous amount of beauty in the performance on a lot of levels,” she said. “It makes me think how special life is. How beautiful life is. … This world we saw on stage exists in all of us.”
Reporting by Ananda West and Tara MacIsaac.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.